Cable Company Totally Unsure What Neighborhoods It Serves, Wants $117,000 For Broadband Service
from the bungled-and-the-botched dept
Here’s a tip if you’re looking to move or building a new house: get your ISP to write you a letter confirming that they service your new address. While you’re at it, get three copies of it from three different executives, have it notarized, and force the ISP to swear a blood oath, because even then you may find yourself without service at your new address. As we’ve noted a few times, users often assume ISPs actually know what neighborhoods they service, only to later have a Kafka-esque introduction to the U.S. broadband industry’s blistering incompetence and dismal customer service.
The latest example comes via a Wisconsin resident who planned to build a new home on a lot both Frontier Communications and Charter Communcations said they were able to service. To be sure, the user double and triple-checked with Charter before beginning the build process:
“Despite not being in a densely populated area, Marshall said the lot was advertised as “cable-ready.” Before committing to the purchase, Marshall said, ?I looked on Charter?s website, and I typed in the address of the lot, and it said, ?yep, we can service you.?” Just to make sure, Marshall said he looked up the addresses of neighboring homes and got the same answer. Just to make extra sure, Marshall said he called Charter ?and gave them the address, and they said, ?yup we can service that lot.?” Construction on the house began in November 2014 and finished in June.”
The user did everything right short of getting the promise in writing. And guess what? Charter wasn’t able to service that lot. Worse, after admitting error about its own network coverage, the cable operator informed the user it would cost him a whopping $117,000 to provide service:
“”Once my house was built, I called [Charter] to set up service, and that?s when they told me they made a mistake. I was too far away from their network,” Marshall said. In June, a Charter construction coordinator told him he?d have to pay $117,000 to cover all labor, materials, and permitting for a network extension to serve the home. Marshall would have to pay the entire $117,000 up front before Charter would begin construction, and the price would not go down even if other homeowners signed up for service.
The user got the same runaround from Frontier Communications, who originally promised it was able to deliver 24 Mbps to that address, only to later admit it could only provide around 3 Mbps — at best (and which will likely be force-bundled with an expensive legacy voice landline the user won’t want). The kicker is that both of these companies have lobbied to erect state barriers to community broadband, which is often an organic response to this kind of dismal coverage and customer service. So again, this is a market where you’ve got lumbering ISPs with absolutely no incentive to expand or improve service, literally writing state law ensuring that nobody can do anything about it.
Fortunately the FCC has finally started to attack these state laws so communities can improve their own broadband in cases of market failure, but it’s a contentious fight with states busy pretending that it’s their god-given right to erect duopoly-protectionist laws written by AT&T and friends. Meanwhile, our national broadband map, which cost $300 million to build, often doesn’t help matters. Plug your name into the government mapping apparatus, and it will often not only hallucinate broadband providers in your area, but it will utterly fabricate available speeds. That’s because it relies largely on the word of ISPs eager to pretend that the U.S. broadband industry is awash in competition, with much of the data never fact checked.
And good news, everyone! Charter Communications is on the cusp of buying both Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks (in a $79 billion merger), and Frontier is busy gobbling up AT&T and Verizon’s unwanted DSL territories. In other words, there’s a pretty good chance this exact brand of incompetence could be coming to your neighborhood very soon.
So if you’re moving to a new area and an ISP claims they offer broadband, get it in writing. Wander the neighborhood asking neighbors what services they can get. Get sixteen company executives on tape insisting they provide service. Because most U.S. ISPs not only don’t know the physical footprint of their network, it’s abundantly clear they have absolutely no interest in accurate data, customer service, or being accountable for false promises. When you’re the only game in town, you quite frankly don’t have to give a damn. And when you’re the one buying and writing state telecom law, it’s remarkably easy to keep it that way.